In his novel The Plague, Albert Camus wrote among others:

So everyone comes down into the streets, they deafen each other with talk, argue or lust after one another - and the town, under the red July sky, filled with couples and noise, drifts towards breathless night. (...) In the beginning, when they thought that it was a sickness like any other, religion had its place. But when they saw that it was serious, they remembered pleasure.

In this context, as well as in the context of the whole book, what does he mean by the quote "they remembered pleasure"? I cannot seem to find a way to correctly interpret this. What does the seriousness of the disease have to do with the remembrance of pleasure, lust, etc that he mentions? How does pleasure contrast with religion ("But") when taking into account the seriousness of the illness?

  • Hi and welcome to Literature Stack Exchange. Could you please add the chapter in which you found this passage, so other people can more easily find its context?
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Jan 5, 2021 at 16:59
  • @Tsundoku it seems to be in this book: play.google.com/store/books/details?id=8W70AQAAQBAJ (Penguin UK), and others translators seem to have translated it in other ways, such as this: goodreads.com/quotes/…
    – user11813
    Commented Jan 5, 2021 at 17:37
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    Thanks, but the reason I asked is that some people, such as myself, want to find the corresponding passage in the original French text.
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Jan 5, 2021 at 17:43
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    @Tsunduku: Au début, quand ils croyaient que c’était une maladie comme les autres, la religion était à sa place. Mais quand ils ont vu que c’était sérieux, ils se sont souvenus de la jouissance. From this webpage.
    – Peter Shor
    Commented Jan 6, 2021 at 15:06

1 Answer 1


The contrast with religion is the key to it. At the beginning, they thought it was an ordinary sort of sickness and turned to prayer in hopes of warding it off. When that does not work, though, and the sickness would continue unabated regardless of their prayers, they threw them aside and turned to pleasure -- one last fling before death.

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